90 Miles to Freedom - A Mother's Legacy

By Joyce Mucci

December '98 Featured Rightgrrl
Member, Rightgrrl Advisory Board
January 11, 2000

Five year old little boys should not be floating in the ocean clinging to a half inflated inner tube, instead they should be playing baseball, eating ice cream and watching Pokeman. However, Elian Gonzalez was on a mission with 12 other people who were attempting to escape Castro's Cuba. Their extraordinary effort to find refuge in the United States resulted in the deaths of 9 of their members including little Elian's mother.

Elian was lucky.

Even so, this little boy has become a political pawn of Fidel Castro's communist regime, and he is now a charter member of a long list of children and adults who have successfully fled the oppression of the aging, creatinous, dictator.

Castro's propaganda machine was moving at full speed after Elian was rescued, starting with the declaration, that his mother kidnapped the boy. A relative of Elian's did confirm that the father wanted the boy back. As to the charge of kidnapping - that was a word chosen by the Cuban Foreign Ministry. Moreover, in their feigned attempt to appear concerned, the Cuban government alerted the U.S. Coast Guard about the boat on the morning of November 22, and said that they tried to persuade them to turn back by "pointing out the danger of excess weight and the bad weather." However, a small motor boat full of dissidents being warned about the seaworthiness of their vessel from Cuban border guards is likely to go unheeded. They feared less the 90 miles of water stretching out before them than the oppression of their homeland.

Of course this is not the first time fleeing Cubans have lost their lives trying to extricate themselves from the tyranny of Castro. Consider the terrible demise of over 40 Cuban men, women and children in July 1994. They too were on their way from Cuba to the United States on the tugboat "13 de Marzo" when under direct order from Castro these refugees were murdered by the border guards. Their only crime was trying to flee the oppression of the hand that ordered their fateful end.

The added insult to the memory of Elian's mother was the Cuban Foreign Ministry's ridiculous declaration that, "The entire responsibility for these new and painful deaths falls on the government of the United States because of the senseless way that illegal immigration is promoted, stimulated and rewarded from that country." This is yet another example of the typical blame shifting by communists in their propaganda war to discredit the United States.

Moreover the much-ballyhooed migratory agreement between Cuba and the U.S. was supposed to stop illegal immigration. The U.S. was, according to the agreement, to return all illegals to Cuba. However, according to Agustin Blazquez, a documentary producer and director of the series of documentaries entitled Covering Cuba, the migratory agreement is essentially a "profit making machine at the expense of Cuban suffering."

For instance, Cubans who are disenchanted with communism do not just wake up one day and say, "let's go to America". They, in all probability cannot afford Castro's extortion policies to legitimately exit the country for good. So for those Cubans who want to come to America via the so-called "legitimate" method must first obtain a U.S. visa, and then there is the sticky matter of gaining an exit permit. It is only with the imprimatur of the communist government that a Cuban citizen can leave the country.

Blazquez explains "as of last July the price Cuba demands for the exit permit to leave Cuba for good is $600.00US per person." Of course, if you only want visit the charge is $150.00US a person. The pesos in Castro's Cuba are worthless pieces of paper so all of the fees must be paid in US dollars that come from "the relatives abroad." But it doesn't end there: passports are $50.00US, medical check-ups $400.00US, airport use $20.00US plus the airfare. So little Elian's mother would have had to cough up nearly $2,000US to make a "legitimate" move to America. Obviously she could not come up with money.

In the touchy, feely world of the Clinton administration children are only important if they have been gunned down in public schools. It is only then that President Clinton seems to get his proverbial nose out of joint when it comes to justice. The children of Cuba however are mere incidentals in this administration's tolerance of communists. Dictators like Castro have exerted more pain, suffering, and cold-blooded murders on families (that includes children) than any gun toting malcontent roaming through a public school.

A senior member of the Democratic Party, Senator Christopher Dodd, echoes the soft glove approach toward the regime in Cuba. Dodd was the keynote speaker during the 17th Annual Journalist and Editors Workshop on Latin America. He opined that "The time has come to lift the trade sanctions in Cuba" calling them "ineffective, counterproductive, inhumane and a failure." Clearly Dodd suffers from history deprivation syndrome.

The truth is the European community's response to the dictatorships in Portugal, Spain and Greece during the 1960's and 1970's are first-rate examples of sanctions that worked over the long haul. For all practical purposes, the doors of the European Union, or as it was then called, the European Community, were closed to these countries until they became democracies. There was no outcry and no legislation to reduce the pressure on these dictators saying as Senator Dodd did that sanctions are "ineffective, counterproductive, inhumane and a failure".

Instead, the sanctions against Oliveria Salaza's regime in Portugal lasted 50 years and sanctions against Franco's regime in Spain lasted 40 years. All the while the international community was waging a blockade that was described by Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) as "decisive in the political openings and democratic transitions that took place in those countries that had long been oppressed by dictatorships."

Moreover there is the hellish matter of drug trafficking. Cuba has become the prime route for Columbian heroin and cocaine coming into the U.S. according to a 1999 State Department report. Then there is the problem of the President's dysfunctional memory to bring to justice Fidel Castro for murdering three U.S. citizens and a U.S. resident in the Florida Straits on February 24, 1996 by Cuban MIG fighter pilots. President Clinton vowed to the mothers of these victims not to rest until those responsible for the murders were brought to justice. So where is the justice?

There is only one sure way that the Cuban people will enjoy the benefits of economic, social and political well being. As Balart explains,"So when we see some asking for an end to the embargo against Castro now… we have to then ask which of the conditions do the Cuban people do not deserve? Do they not deserve the liberation of all political prisoners, the legalization of political parties, the press, labor unions, or do they not deserve free elections?"

This means, of course, that for the above conditions to exist either Castro dies in office (hopefully soon), or he has an epiphany (don't hold your breathe) or there is a coup. History confirms that countries that continue to feed a dictatorship, either by trade or some other acquiescence there is no transition to democracy.

The bottom line is that Castro's regime wants little Elian back. So we have to ask - is it good for Elian? Is Fidel Castro's Cuba good for the children? Absolutely not. Freedom is what Mrs. Gonzales wanted for her son and hopefully Elian will enjoy all the benefits and privileges that America has to offer.

Ultimately freedom was his mother's wish.

This article copyright © 2000 by Joyce Mucci and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.